Ouch! The Dog Bites!

DogBiteBittenAttackBloodBitTeeth6Why do some dogs bite? Many will respond “because the dog is aggressive”.

But are those dogs really aggressive?

In my experience, a dog will only bite if the person/owner has trigger off a stimuli that causes the dog to react in such a manner, or if the person/owner has disrespected the dog. Whether in terms of space invasion or stepping beyond the comfort zone of the dog, a disrespectful behaviour has been read by the dog. Here, I’m talking about dogs with no psychological issues.

You will notice that I’ve been emphasizing about respecting dogs in almost all my articles. This is because dogs are very sharp when it comes to reading the human body language and associating scent, sound and sight into a command or an action. This does not mean that when we respect dogs first, we become losers or followers. As I’ve explained before, this is pure leadership. Like I always share with others as well as my team of associate behaviourists, we must stay current with the latest research and move on from the old ways. Humility in learning makes one a stronger leader. Here at The Dog Behaviourist, we do not discriminate trainers or behaviourists who do not share our sentiments and methodologies. We are all here for the very same purpose – to educate owners about their dogs and to help dogs understand humans. Therefore, rather than comparing between various trainers and behaviourists, we prefer to study and learn from best practices. We often teach people not to carry unhappy emotions when training dogs because dogs move on fast and they don’t dwell on the negative (although latest studies have shown that dogs do carry certain emotions, but I shall cover that in another article). As we learn the same from dogs, we too, should keep moving on.
Showing Teeth
I’ve heard many times over that when a person/owner gets bitten, they blame the dog. Seldom do I hear anyone admit that it’s their fault for causing the dog to react in that manner. I shall emphasize that whenever a human gets bitten by a dog, it is always the human’s fault, never the dog. And I’m not even talking about unbalanced dogs or dogs that have been pushed to their psychological limits. I’m talking about our companion dogs as well as feral (stray) dogs. As a canine behaviourist, my very first priority is my safety and the public’s safety, then the dog’s safety. Let’s be really honest; dogs are way smarter than what most people assume them to be! They are intelligent animals and they instinctively know how to take great care of themselves. Therefore, with that level of respect to dogs, I always ensure that when handling a behavioural consultation, I do not act as a hero. I take care to stay sharp and alert. If I’m able to handle a reactive dog without getting bitten, I know that I’ve respected the dog, and the dog is respecting me in return. But if I get bitten, I know that I’ve disrespected the dog’s space or comfort level.
Dog Bite
In a recent session I had with a client, her dog Sally (not the dog’s real name) nipped my foot when I entered the house. At the first instance, it may seem like Sally was the one at fault. But in retrospect, I went in the door too fast, knowing that Sally is very nervous and defensive. Due to that sudden movement of the door opening and someone foreign walking in, Sally reacted, communicating to me using her mouth that she’s uncomfortable with me entering the door. This is my first time being nipped by a dog during a behaviour consultation session with a client. It was very clear that I’ve disrespected her space, failed to take heed in her high-tone nervous barking and went ahead to enter the door. When she used her mouth to communicate to me that she’s uncomfortable with my presence, she wasn’t baring her teeth. Her nipping was akin to how a sheepdog nips the heels of the sheep, only harder. The result: a small scratch on my upper foot.

I was once told that as long as you work with dogs, you will get bitten badly at least once. But I still choose not to hold this belief. In all my client consultations, I’ve never been bitten or nipped before. Yes, this was the first, and it shall be the last. All it takes is for us as humans, to learn how to respect dogs first. Be sharp and meticulous in reading and understanding the dog’s body language and its communication to us, and you can prevent not just a bite, but even a small little nip.

To conclude: don’t act a hero. Whether you are a trainer, behaviourist, dog handler, a volunteer in a shelter or an employee in a pet shop, educate yourself with dog’s behaviour and body language. If you are not comfortable handling a certain dog’s behaviour, don’t be too proud to turn away from it. And never be complacent when handling dogs even when you have long term experience in handling dogs. It just means you have more to learn from dogs.

Correction & Reward

The media in this day and age has popularised the concept of the ultimate dominance of humans over dogs; the alpha to their dogs.
I know that in my earlier articles I talked about pack leadership. This article is not a change in belief, but to further clarify and help everyone understand that the idea of leadership (even towards our dogs) encompasses more than just being domineering. My earlier article on being a pack leader was in the context of having 4 or more dogs. More importantly, today I am going to address how one can be a strong leader to their dogs. It holds similar principles in your workplace and even in your family (especially as the male of the household or as parents to your kids).

Being a leader is not equivalent to being a boss or an alpha. It simply means that you know how to give respect before getting respect. Respect is what everyone wants and needs; but respect has to be earned. Between a human and a dog, humans have to respect dogs for who they are, how they are and how God have created them. This will determine our attitude and hence our approach towards our dogs. We do recognise that we are the superior being – we can rationalise, deduce, and perform tasks that are impossible for dogs. For that reason, we must model what respect is and approach God’s creation with respect.

So, back to our topic on correction and reward. How do we know when to correct and when to reward, and exactly what’s the difference? This is where I would like to highlight the application of  true leadership. A leader will correct someone for a mistake, and after the wrong has ‘made’ right, the leader recognises and affirms the act or behaviour. In short, the leader rewards. When we correct a dog’s behaviour, safe methods should be employed. Too often, we mistake certain corrective actions, that may be hurtful, to be effective. For example, a dog keeps pulling on the leash. I do observe that one of the popular corrective method is to tug on the dog’s leash in order to control them. When performed with bad techniques and possible frustration, not only can the method be ineffective, the dog can even be susceptible to injuries.

So what are some of the correction methods an owner can employ for some common undesirable behaviours displayed by the dog?

IMG_40471. Dog pulling at the leash

Immediately change direction if your dog starts to pull or walk ahead. You might have to do it multiple times before the dog gets it. The moment your dog starts walking beside you properly,  quickly reward the dog by letting him or her sniff the grass (that’s right grass-sniffing can be rewarding to a dog) or get a treat. The tricky part is to catch your dog doing right and affirm immediately to help the dog associate that certain behavioural display is desirable. If, after rewarding your dog, he or she falls back into the same bad habits in the next instance, conduct the correction-reward process all over again. Patience is a virtue when training your dog.

Dogs not sitting on command

Pulling at the leash upwards (like a choking action) quite forcefully or physically pushing the dog’s butt down to force them to comply to the ‘sit’ command may not be ideal. What one can try is to use food in hand as a lure. Place your hand (with an irresistible treat enclosed in hand) in front of their nose and direct the dog into a sit position. When they do sit, let the dog have the treat as a reward. When you need to physically bring a dog into a sit position – very gently push their butt down with the food lure still in front of their nose guiding the dog into the sit position.

A correction for a dog must always be followed by a reward.

Anything that excites the dog can be use as a reward. It may be letting a dog sniff at the grass, positive praise and of course, food. For example, Scott loves playing with a ball, however he is an anti-social dog. He’ll walk away or sit down when another dog sniffs him (this is the way dogs socialise when they first meet one another). One day Scott meets a very calm and friendly dog and decides not to sit down or walk away for just 2 seconds. Upon seeing that, I will grab his favourite ball and play fetch with him for awhile. That becomes a reward for him. Scott learns that he will get rewarded if he lets another dog sniff him. Isn’t that wonderful? Dogs are just so easy to please, we just have to learn to understand how to harness that strength.

For correction methods, canning the dog (depending on which country and culture you’re from), yelling at the dog, bringing the dog to a time-out corner (we will talk about time-out corner another time), not feeding the dog are not encouraged. Correction can be as simple and gentle as ignoring, walking away, changing direction or making a firm sound that’s consistently used for correction only (it doesn’t have to be loud). Dogs don’t rationalise and they won’t remember after 1-3 seconds the act that you disapprove. For example, Bob tends to bark non-stop during walks when he meets another dog. Bob’s owner keeps pulling on the leash to control him. On some occasion, they cave in and allow a hyper-excited Bob rush to another dog to allow him a sniff since they recognise that is how dogs make friends or what he wants. However, this will only help intensify Bob’s barking, as he will associate that he needs to pull and bark a lot to get rewarded (sniffing another dog). To implement a correction for such behaviour is just by changing direction, walking away from the other dog. I don’t mean tugging on the leash and choking Bob. Just change direction and brandish out his favourite treat in front of his nose and lure him into a sit position, facing away from the other dog. Rewarding him once his excitement has gone down significantly. Of course this takes patience. You may probably need to repeat your correct-reward cycle repeatedly until the dog is able to walk pass other dogs without reacting with hyper-excitement. Follow through your training with a reward, i.e. allow him to sniff the other dog eventually as a reward. (if your dog is reactive is such scenario, consult a professional)

Always understand how dogs think and learn before starting to implement corrective methods learnt from various sources, – indeed the methods can either work against or for you.

Note: Popping of the leash has been taught by many trainers and behaviourist, however, this has to be done properly and the right way, if not it becomes a negative act and is counter-effective. Therefore, for my clients, I teach and advocate more positive approaches.

by Ezra Koh

Working with dogs! What does it really mean?

Been wanting to write this article for pretty long but didn’t manage to get down to it. Having new developments in my work as well as packed with cases and workshops while squeezing in time to read more books and research to upgrade my understanding and knowledge of dog behaviour.

Having been in this industry, I’ve met and interviewed many people who say they want to work with dogs because dogs are easier to deal with than humans. I bet that’s what you’re thinking now! Well, truth be told, there is no such thing as working with dogs only. Maybe if you are in the wild alone with these canines. If not, it is purely a fantasy thought and talk which will never ever come true.

Let’s break it down further; you will never work only with dogs simply because as a human, you have the capacity to rationalize, put emotions before logic and form personal opinions about how dogs should be cared for. Once again, I might get shot down once again for stating the facts of how we humans think when it comes to dogs, but the truth hurts!!

When you choose to step into the dog industry, may it be as a professional groomer, trainer, behaviourist, a volunteer in a shelter, a stray feeder or a rehomer, you will be working with humans on an emotional level. This isn’t an industry where someone can retire from politics or corporate culture. This is an industry where politics can be worse than running for the presidential title. I may be exaggerating to some extent as I’ve never ran for president, nor have I been in any political situation before. However, the fact is, when it comes to emotions, opinions becomes logical to each individual party. Everyone wants to have their say, and everyone thinks that they are right because that is what their emotions tell them.

Why are there so many animal welfare organizations around? Yes, more is good! But when there are too many in a small sector, it simply shows how political that industry is. Is it so difficult to compromise, learn and act like an adult and to work in unison with the very same goals in mind? Yes, it is true that not everyone is right when it comes to dogs, let alone, other living beings (that includes humans).

It is interesting to hear how people are so critical over one another’s organizations, pet shops, veterinarians, TV show trainers/ behaviourists, etc… I believe every one of us behaviourists or trainers have one way or another been criticized by others, be they in the same profession or as an individual. At the end of the day, none of us enter this industry expecting to be a millionaire or with an intention to mistreat dogs. Well, I can’t speak for all, but so far, people whom I’ve worked with do have a genuine love for dogs and carry the same passion as I do. Yes, we do this professionally and for that, we receive fees for our services. Everyone has bills to pay and mouths to feed. But many of us do this for one simple reason! We love dogs and we are intrigued by the way dogs learn and communicate with us. Yes, we are here to help dogs. But truth be told! Dogs DO NOT need our help! It is we humans that need help to understand dogs in the way their world works. This is one reason why I do not handle a client’s dog throughout a session. It makes more sense for owners to handle their own dog while I instruct and educate them on how to handle and understand what their dog is communicating to them through body language, etc…

What is my point? My point is, DO NOT enter this industry if you are not willing to work with humans and if you are not ready for someone to tell you about YOU! Make it a point to slow down, understand the people you are working with or helping and help them understand your opinions. If it is too difficult to ask, you can always google to get all your answers. Something I don’t understand is, why is it so difficult for a dog lover to search the Internet or make a phone call to a professional to get the answers to a behavioural problem or a certain behaviour the dog shows? There is a reason why researchers do research and there is a reason why professors and doctors out there sacrifice time, money and sleep to study dogs. Therefore, this industry will never ever be an industry where people just work with dogs. This will never ever happen – Deal with it!

In reality, this is an industry where humans let their emotions rule their logic so be prepared to get criticized by people. Although you may be doing a lot in helping dogs – be it strays, ex-breeding dogs or domestic dogs, you can never escape the scrutiny of dog lovers.

As a good friend of mine who is a dog trainer always say, we are never 100% right though we are formally trained in dog training and behaviour. It is a lifelong learning journey for everyone. The day you stop learning from the right source and get ruled by your own emotions, is the day you find yourself struggling with a dog’s behaviour that makes you so stressed till you resort to physical abuse. Trust me, I’ve seen it countless times where dog lovers who preach about treating dogs well and slam others – because they personally feel the other owner, trainer or rehomer is not doing it right – are the very ones who resort to such physical abuse. Abuse that arises out of stress and the emotional tension tied to the failure of controlling or handling a dog with major issues.

I hope dog lovers will learn to be mature and understand the facts before entering this industry.

This industry is for people who want their dogs to teach them about themselves, who dare to be real and who are thick skinned. That’s the truth 😉

Ezra Koh

Fear of Dogs – Breed or Behaviour?

There are people who are afraid of dogs. When they see dogs, some scream in fear, some shiver and get tense, and in the worst case, some cry out of fear. However, have we thought about what is it in them (dogs) that really scares us? Do we really understand them? I would like to start off with a quote “Fear kicks in, in the absence of knowledge.”

There are stories where breeds like Pitbulls, Rottweilers and German Shepherds gave nasty bites to people. These stories have made the breeds seem even scarier. I would like to ask everyone who recognize dogs as who they are based on their breeds – “how much do you understand about respective dog breeds?” Much blame has been put on different dog breeds.

picture taken from : Facebook “I love Pit Bulls”

This article is not about who is in the wrong but rather, to bring awareness to people. The breed does not determine if the dog is loving or scary. It is the (bad) behaviour of the dog that defines what’s scary. You can have a Chihuahua or a Maltese that has serious aggression issues, e.g. lunging a bite on you, drawing blood from you. Of course, if this behavioural problem comes from a large dog like a Doberman, your injury may be worse.  But the breed is never the factor to define a dog – the owner and the dog’s behaviour is.

Many of us have watched television programmes where dog behaviourists rehabilitate dogs and train owners how to place their dog(s) back on track. This is all about education. Without knowledge, we are unsure and we can even be afraid of our own dogs, much less strangers.

picture taken from: google

That said, for those of us who are afraid of dogs, I would suggest that you think about this question –  are you afraid of dogs (even when a dog seems friendly and is wagging its tail excitedly) or are you afraid of what they are capable of (a bite)?

Dogs can feel what we are feeling. If you meet a very confident, calm and stable dog, you are generally safe. If you meet a dog that is unstable and you react fearfully to the dog, you may trigger them to react to your fear. It can be a bark, a growl, a chase or in the worst case, a bite.


Here is some tips for our lovely friends who fear dogs and wish to interact with them or avoid getting bitten:


– Do not give direct eye contact to a dog new to you

– Do not touch a dog immediately. If you are visiting a house, allow the dog to sniff you and walk away from you first. You can then invite the dog by squatting or kneeling down after both the humans and dogs are settled down.

– Give affection to a dog that is new to you by giving a gentle rub under the chin – that is respect.

– If a dog jumps on you, just turn your back and remain calm.

– Ignore the dog if you feel uncomfortable with his/her energy (too excited, charging towards you, etc)

Stay calm at all times

*Avoiding (If you happen to pass by a stray that is too friendly or barking at you and you want nothing to do with it):

– Do not give eye contact

– Do not scream. Walk as per normal

– If the dog charges towards you, turn your back and walk away

– Ignore the dog

Stay calm at all times


Understanding how to interact with a dog is important. We can blame a dog for biting us for all we want. But we have to reflect on this – humans rationalize, but dogs can’t. Dogs react to different energies, body languages and situations. Before blaming a dog, shall we take a step ahead to understand if we are doing it right as a (supposingly) smarter species that is capable of rationalizing? If we show respect to a dog, the dog will not want to hurt you. But if we cross our boundaries and hit their limits, they will then give warnings through verbalization or body language. And if we do not heed their message, we may get bitten.

picture taken from: google

Breeds only tell you something general about them – how do we expect to match the dog and our family? How will the dog look like? But it can never tell you who the dog really is. It is the behaviour and character that determines who the dog is really is.

Thank you for your time in reading this article, I hope that you will find this useful. Friends that are fearful of dogs – it is not a fault, there is totally nothing wrong with your fear of dogs.  It is a choice if you would like to overcome it and if you do like to overcome your fear of dogs, please seek assistance from a professional. Have a great day.

Jeremy Lim

Associate Canine Behaviourist

Enforcing Structure and Discipline

Just came back from a 2-day dog behaviour consultation. I thought this was going to be very challenging case as both cross breed dogs (Singapore Specials) tend to be reactive, to the extend of fighting with one another.

I noticed how over-excited both dogs were when both me and my understudy arrived in-front of their door. Both dogs were barking, running towards the gate, one of them was jumping really high and barking at the same time.

When the dogs finally settle down, we sat down and find out more about the problems that the owners were facing with their dogs. After which, we went out to see how they walk their dogs. Walking dogs is one of the best way for me to see where the dog stands in the family as well as to be able to observe how the owner runs their house for their pets. The walk started excitedly fast! In a couple mins, both dogs and both owners was out from the house in a dash and into the lift. Once the lift door open, both dogs zoomed off really fast, leading both owners wherever they want to go. My heart stopped when their dogs pulled them across the road! My understudy whispered to me “waoh! that is very dangerous!” After walking, we went back to the house and observe more of their activity. Seeing how they play with both the dogs. Then, I got the mother and the eldest daughter to go out for sometime. The eldest daughter came back first – before she even ring the door bell, both dogs started barking. One of them rushed to the door and “greeted” her, jumping onto her. Both dogs were wagging their tail furiously. It took about few mins before both dogs settle down. After another 5mins, their mother right the door bell. Both dogs started barking again. The same one that “greeted” the eldest daughter at the door, did the same thing, however, this time was a different level of excitement altogether. Both dogs were over excited, plus the one that did not ran towards the door, went tense in a split second. The moment the other dog turned back and ran backwards, both went into a challenge. The tense dog went further with a hard stare and in 2-3 seconds, fight broke out. Both dogs aren’t light weight for me to stop the fight the way I usually do, therefore I decided to use a leash to leash round one of the dog which is really big size (fat). I had to lift up his whole body to get him off balance, but he was really heavy. Their helper managed to get the leash onto his collar, to maneuver him sideways. Thanks to the younger daughter, she took a cup and splash water onto both their face which shocked the dog who was clamping his jaw onto the other dog and immediately releases his jaw which I was able to pull him sideways. As he was in the flight zone, his eyes was still pretty round and body was still very tense. He didn’t like the discipline from me, however, I had to stand my ground while holding the leash for safety. (Remember: it doesn’t mean that if one is a trainer or a behaviourist, one should play hero. Everyone’s priority should be Not getting bitten. If one gets bitten, it doesn’t mean he/she is a hero or a very brave person. It simply means he/she have disrespected the dog and have made a very bad mistake which makes it the human’s fault.) He bared his teeth at me with a hard stare but moved backwards. After about 1-2mins, he decided to give up and lay flat on the floor. This does not mean I won. It just meant that he decided to respect me and the new discipline.

After both dogs and everyone settle down, I proceed with the last part of the first day’s consultation which is The Reality Check section. This is the part where owners learn what they did wrong and what needs to change.


A list of issues that I’ve observe will be listed out together with the discipline that will need to be enforced.

The owners was willing to make a change and enforce structure and discipline for both their dogs. They expressed that they are very very determine to make a change for the good of their dogs.

Structure and discipline is one of the main key principles to having a problem free dog(s). We always have to understand that every living things need structure and discipline. Without them, things will fall apart. It is so easy to understand that humans need structure and discipline. We go to work, and there’s structure and discipline. In the home, parents set structures and boundaries, and a child will be discipline if any of those are crossed. In the same way, dogs need structure and discipline too. Parents discipline not because they hate the child, but because they love the child. Same for dogs. (People might not like me to say this, and I might get slam for saying this. But the truth hurts!) Real love for dogs means treating them like dogs. And what dogs really need is not eating waste! What dogs really need is structure for their lives! Exercise, walking beside the owner. Sitting until the owner says go. Eating after a walk, and after every human eats. Controlled play time so that they don’t get over excited. Discipline for dogs is not canning or spanking a dog! It’s creating boundaries. No entering the rooms unless invited. No going onto the couch unless invited. Wait for food. No barking. No jumping when humans enter the door.It is simply the most selfish act of a human to let emotions run and ignore structure and discipline for the dogs just because the human desires cuddle, affection and fulfillment of emotional needs.

The owners of the dogs understood what they needed to do, and the 2nd day was hard work for them, but they did it! As you can see from the video, a huge difference in the walking. They have brought the dogs for obedience class before, but the behaviour persist. From the video you can see that they actually pull the leash up to get the dogs to sit. After the walk, I corrected that to become something positive so that it’s fun for the dogs to sit, rather then getting a tug on the leash. Both dogs are not perfect yet, but they are on the way to becoming good dogs.

The walk was almost about 2 hours as it includes correcting the owners along the way. When everyone got back to the house, both dogs were flat-out. Not because of the long walks, as the walk wasn’t long at all. They were flat-out because their minds were stimulated properly, fulfilling their instinctual needs of following a leader. Because structure and discipline was enforced during the walking, both dogs with physically and mentally fulfilled. And almost half of the issues I saw the day before was totally gone. This takes consistent discipline on the part of the owners. If the structure and discipline is not consistently followed through, both dogs will go back to their old ways again.

Remember! Take time to understand dogs the dog way and not the human way. Dogs desire us to understand them their way and not our way.

By Ezra Koh

Dog & Humans

I find this short clip to be a good summery of how our canine companions sees us and why they are how they are. This clip is to understand about dogs in summery but not to know them for behaviour and/or to train them. I like this clip because it’s broken down is the shortest, easiest way to understand our canine companions. Not just that – It’s also shows how far and how much we can teach ourselves to understand them and in turn, for them to understand what we need and how they can help us.

For far too long we have been taught to ensure that dogs do what we want them to do for us, but now, it is what we need them to help us with. Of course I’m not talking about dogs that has behavioural issues, I’m talking about dogs that has not much behavioural issues and they just want to help us in our inabilities which sometimes we humans can be too proud to admit that we need help from our canine companions.

Example: I need help from my dogs when I handle certain cases. Some case I will bring my Whippet X Husky Vogue, and some cases, I’ll bring my late Labrador Kiro. I’m currently going to start training my Mongrel puppy to understand other dog’s behaviour and to signal me when it’s not right. This things comes naturally for all dogs, but an addition, I will have to train him not to react, good or bad reaction, but to stay still and signal me with his body language. This is how I’m expressing that I need my dog’s help to help me accomplish my work to be 100%.

Enjoy this short clip, and I hope you learn great stuff from here.

Ezra Koh


Martin Clunes narrates this heart-warming and revealing film, bringing you dogs as you’ve never seen them before. Using state-of-the-art technology – including some amazing slow motion footage – we find out how our favourite animal sees, smells and experiences its very different world. Follow the life of a cute puppy from birth through to its own pregnancy, and hear personal accounts of dogs that have saved lives, rebuilt marriages and detected diseases. Part natural history, part science and part pure celebration of man’s best friend, this programme highlights just how extraordinary dogs truly are.

Click below to play video

Secret Life of Dogs

A Mistaken and Forgotten Breed of dogs in Singapore

The mistaken and forgotten canines in Singapore, our street dogs (Mongrels).

People mistook them for being aggressive and unfriendly. But when society like Russia, embrace mother-nature as part of their lifestyle, they understood that mother-nature was there before them. Mother-nature was there before our houses was built, cars was manufactured, trains was manufactured, and even way before such a thing as politician.

Eventually it’s not just about the gov. that makes a bad call when it comes to stay dogs. It’s the society in general. Sometimes, it can be people like us who loves dogs so much too. When one goes too extreme, it causes society to react in the opposite of what we hope to achieve. But education, responsibility and respect about our canine companion brings new meaning to Loving my dog(s).

Ezra Koh…

Below is an article by DogFiles.com about the stray dogs in Russia:

Moscow Dog Naps On Train 1

Each morning, like clockwork, they board the subway, off to begin their daily routine amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.

But these aren’t just any daily commuters. These are stray dogs who live in the outskirts of Moscow Russia and commute on the underground trains to and from the city centre in search of food scraps.

Then after a hard day scavenging and begging on the streets, they hop back on the train and return to the suburbs where they spend the night.

Experts studying the dogs, who usually choose the quietest carriages at the front and back of the train, say they even work together to make sure they get off at the right stop – after learning to judge the length of time they need to spend on the train.

Scientists believe this phenomenon began after the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, and Russia’s new capitalists moved industrial complexes from the city centre to the suburbs.

Dr Andrei Poiarkov, of the Moscow Ecology and Evolution Institute, said: “These complexes were used by homeless dogs as shelters, so the dogs had to move together with their houses. Because the best scavenging for food is in the city centre, the dogs had to learn how to travel on the subway – to get to the centre in the morning, then back home in the evening, just like people.”

Dr Poiarkov told how the dogs like to play during their daily commute. He said: “They jump on the train seconds before the doors shut, risking their tails getting jammed. They do it for fun. And sometimes they fall asleep and get off at the wrong stop.”

The dogs have also amazingly learned to use traffic lights to cross the road safely, said Dr Poiarkov. And they use cunning tactics to obtain tasty morsels of shawarma, a kebab-like snack popular in Moscow.

With children the dogs “play cute” by putting their heads on youngsters’ knees and staring pleadingly into their eyes to win sympathy – and scraps.

Dr Poiarkov added: “Dogs are surprisingly good psychologists.”

By Elaine Furst For Dog Files

Dog Naps On Moscow Train 2

The fate of street dogs in Singapore…

What I’m gonna be talking about in my notes might not sit well with some. But I believe in some sense, we need to strike a balance and be real about the fate of our Singapore specials.

I must say, I’ve been very privilege being able to work with our local street dogs (which we call them mongrels or mutt) from early last year onwards till current. I did not choose to work with them – they chose me. I did not choose to work with them simply because I wasn’t well expose to whats going on with our Singapore specials, not because I don’t like them.

I started working with mongrels when I visited one of the shelter at Pasir Ris. Instead of working with the mongrels they have, I was asked to help with a hyper-active Labrador. This Labrador found a home eventually and the adopters became my client as he was giving everyone blue-blacks all over their arms.

Well, I’m not gonna talk about the Labrador today, I’m gonna talk about mongrels.

Somehow, I still manage to find myself attending to clients with mongrels. Of course I have a fair share of pedigree cases too. But whats interesting is, I did not intentionally want to work with mongrels, but I just find myself planted among them.

The real deal started when I was looking for a place to be called a Canine Rehabilitation Centre, but with the limited space, high prices and ridiculous policies by the various bodies I found myself sharing a kennel space with a rehomer and a stray feeder. Along with the kennel, it came with 5 dogs that were already staying there and another 4 dogs from Tuas which were in their adolescent and very disrespectful. I had no choice but to rehabilitate all the dogs before I started bringing in my own cases for boot camp.
After a month, all of them was walking really well and 80% of them stopped their resource guarding and food aggression.

Dogs was being adopted out to good homes pretty fast at one point. While dogs was going to good homes, non was returned, but more new ones was coming in. Most trainers and behaviourist will know that it takes a week or so before introducing a new dog. And when a new dog is introduce into a pack, it takes another 2 weeks to help with the transition peacefully. With that happening, and limited space, I had to stop all rescued dogs from entering the shelter. Although there were cases that were urgent. But which case isn’t urgent?
Hate it, but I had to play the bad guy by stopping dogs from entering the shelter. This is where it becomes a very delicate situation to handle. Every stray feeder and dog rescuer rescue dogs for all the right reason, but when it comes to placing a dog in a shelter, that is where it all becomes really delicate.

To break it down:
1. When a dog is rescued, the dog is put in a shelter.
2. When the shelter reaches it’s max capacity, no dogs can enter the shelter.
3. When a case is so urgent that overlooks the max capacity of the shelter and how stable the pack is, it becomes DANGEROUS!
4. When #3 happens, it’ll lead to fights in the pack, pack becomes tense, volunteers drain out physically and mentally, behaviour from the pack becomes bad, and worse! an alpha dog emerge within the pack which is gonna be dangerous for both dogs and humans.

After I got most of the dogs I was rehabilitating adopted out, I decided to step out from the shelter to focus on my business and move towards other plans to continue rehabilitating mongrels. It was the most difficult decision I had to make, but I had to.

Although I was no more involve with the shelter, but yet I find myself handling mongrels. They seem to find me somehow.

After about a couple of months, I received a phone call from one of the animal welfare group inviting me to help out in rehabilitating their dogs and to handle their shelter. Though there were some hiccups along the way to finalize it, it eventually took place. I started out being a little reserve about whats gonna happen, but somehow when I met the president of this animal welfare group, I felt the peace to give it my 110%. After which, I met the core team volunteers – started out a little rocky, but we finally understood one another. I will say, I have came to know an awesome team of dedicated people, being able to support one another as well as understand both humans and dogs to strike a balance. I did not hear any of them blaming adopters or layman who doesn’t know much about dogs, but I hear kindness and determination to educate the public with patience. This is something I was and still am impress with.

Being part of this team for slightly more than a month, I am still impress with the dedication of all the volunteers. No one is power hungry, everyone just work together as a team. I have never seen such team work among volunteers in any animal welfare groups (but may be because I have never been around many of them). Team work right from the top to the bottom, it’s impressive!

Back to the fate of street dogs in Singapore – After working around mongrels and the team of awesome volunteers, I’ve came to a conclusion that I can’t help every mongrel. I’ll do all I can to help the ones that have a potential to go into good homes. For those who do not have the potential and are in our shelter, we will just keep working and try whatever methods all 3 of us trainers and behaviourist can dig out from our heads, books and past exams to create a calm and stable transition for these dogs.

Feral dogs ain’t easy at all. And for any trainer and behaviourist, most of our top priority is not to get bitten. It’s a fine line between being smart and being foolish. So we don’t act hero to proof our worth.

For the past month, we enter into a dreadfulness of outbreaks happening everywhere. The toughest time for most shelters and stray feeders. However, being able to contain the outbreak is one thing – being able to educate stray feeders and dog rescuers is another thing. Of course, not all of them fall into that category. But I’m saying that many stray feeders and dog rescuers have to draw a line to strike a balance between dogs that are not able to be rehome, and a high chance of affecting potentially stable dogs to be able to go to good homes. Yes, most cases are urgent. But does that urgency leads to an outbreak, does that urgency leads to an injury, or does that urgency leads to a positive reinforcement for the dog and the human? This is something everyone, including myself must ask as often as possible.

The big question is, what then can be done??

Coming to terms that the fate of our street dogs are in the hands of “certain authority”, but I still like asking this question: “Is there a possibility to create a dog sanctuary where the feral dogs can be relocated?” Yes, a huge plot of land and forested area is needed. It’ll do a lot better then culling them. Well, dogs don’t bring economic stability to our nation, so that’s not gonna happen (hope & pray for it to happen). Like I said in the beginning, this might not sit well with some of you reading this – the fate of our street dogs will eventually be gone. Hate to say it, but it’s true. Working with them for so long, I’ve fall in love with them (my wife comes first still, just in case she’s reading this). Knowing that there’s nothing much I can do about it – but to work hard with the current dogs in the shelter now.

At the same time, it is so important that, as much as I hope to help as many of our street dogs, I have to spend quality time with our current dogs first. Filling up our kennels with street dogs isn’t the smartest thing to do. In fact, I think it’s foolish. The most important thing is to stabilize the current pack, and train them to help train new dogs. The moment the pack is stable enough, we can then take in 1 dog at a time. At least for these dogs, it will not be jail time for them. The shelter will be their sanctuary instead as 3 times a week they get pack walks, play time, etc… of course, we are working towards having more days. It’ll be awesome to have it everyday.

With all these being said. Although I’ve come to terms with the fate of our street dogs, but I haven’t given up on them. I’m still hopeful for them, and I hope that the shelters in Singapore can work together with a common goal in mind rather then working against one another. Nothing beats working together harmoniously and achieving positiveness in our human pack as well as the dog pack!

To everyone who has been sacrificing their time and putting in a lot of effort helping these dogs; Well done and keep it up. You deserve a pet on the shoulder!

Ezra Koh

When it’s neurological, and not behaviour problem…

Mollee on her way to her new home.

Molliee, was a breeding dog rescued by VFA to be rehome. A sweet little girl who was put through force mating just for profit making. Fortunately for her, she didn’t give birth a lot, however she still suffered from mild liver problems which can be kept in control and maintain by proper diet and supplements. Thanks to the efforts of VFA, Mollee, together with many other dogs found a new home.

If you ever care for an ex-breeding dog, you will know that many of them despite developing a confusion of instincts due to being kept in a small area or overcrowded playpen for breeding, they tend to be very affectionate and easy going dogs to care for in terms of behaviour.

Mollee likes to cuddle with other dogs.

My lovely wife always wanted a poodle, but I always like medium to big dogs. So, this time round, we manage to chance upon VFA‘s rescue of breeding dogs who are looking for new homes. I went down to VFA‘s adoption drive and saw Mollee. Everyone was passing her around cause she was quiet and relaxed. I decided to select her out of the others, knowing that she will be playful, but at the same time, I know she knows how to be calm. VFA‘s volunteer shortlisted me, and the relationship of Mollee and us begin…

Mollee enjoying her long walk with my lovely wife and our first ex-breeding dog, Churro.

Mollee is a bundle of joy at home and in my shop. She plays with my dogs well, and she learns discipline well too. I decided to crate train her which works very well for breeding dogs somehow. Especially if you don’t want them to have any accidents overnight in your house.

She goes into her crate on her own without needing to coax, and she maintains quiet until next morning when we take her and our dogs out to pee and poop.

As active as she can be, she was also calm when half of the time. She loves her walks, especially the pack walks.

We got her checked and spayed one month after taking her home. After spaying, she was back to normal the next day. Enjoying her walks as usual. About a month later, I noticed that after a burst of play, she will start to walk slowly towards the wall, when her head tap on the wall, she’ll lean and use the wall for support while walking, until she taps on the wall again and change direction. I checked by crossing her legs while she stands and pointing her paws downwards to see how fast her brain response. And realized that she might have some neurological issues. It didn’t seem serious or medical, as she was still eating well, playing and being normal (only for that short time of taping on the wall).

I simply thought it could be due to her being in the breeders for too long that causes her to do such things. I guess I was wrong about it eventually.

Just right before rushing her to the vet.

On a faithful Monday afternoon, she suddenly drop to the floor and started spinning like a crocodile roll. First my staff thought she was trying to scratch her ears (some dogs who has earmites or ear infection will rub their head on the floor). But her roll was prolong and her head was slamming on the floor at the same time. I immediately rushed, sending her to my trusted family vet. The vet diagnosed and concluded that she is suffering from a neurological damage in a part of her brain that likely is caused by an infection in the past. This wasn’t noticed during her checkup, and it was believed that she might have suffered some kind of infection while she was a breeding dog. It was said that sometimes the toxic from the infection might take few weeks to few months to start noticing reaction.

Some options was told to me, e.g. doing checks to which can cost up to $4k-$5K, after which, a surgery on her liver shunt so that it’ll help her get back to a partial normal life, but yet, might not survive for long either, that will cost another $5k-$6k, and lastly, if she’s suffering too much, putting her down is one of the option. All of which are tough decisions.

Now, Mollee is fighting for her life, as her neurological damage (as confirmed and diagnose by our trusted family vet) suddenly became very bad. Spinning and slamming her head on the floor. She is now closely monitored by us, we had to force feed her very carefully for the first 2 days. Because her neck is tilted, force feeding too much water or food at a go can choke her.

She is now eating on her own, but she still can’t walk, or stand.

Keeping Mollee’s head up so that she doesn’t drown.

Because she was getting better, I decided to start water therapy for her. When I put her down in the warm water, she started to feel relax. Her heart beat slowed down. She didn’t start paddling her legs, but she just floated and rest in the water, while using my hand to support her neck.

While in the water, neck and back massage is administered to help loosen her muscle.

I gently move her around in the water, touching and massaging her body so that her legs will start moving, which it did. Keeping her head above the water, I administer a basic mild massage from her neck down to her butt area.

This therapy will go on for a week, and we’ll see how it goes.

She is now on neuro supplements and medications. We are also feeding her more natural food and herbs to help in her healing process. We will do what we can and however long it takes, as she’s not showing anymore signs of suffering. Because she can’t walk, we have to use water to help her loosen up.

I have never dealt with anything like this before. It’s heart breaking, at the same time, I was lost. If it was behaviour issue, it’ll be easy to correct and rehabilitate, but a neurological damage issue is something that I’ve never handle before.

My wife, me and my staff are hopeful that she’ll get better through herbs and water therapy.

This is what happens to a lot of dogs in local breeding farms. To make more profit, God’s creation are put through inhumane condition of living that pushes most of them to physiological trauma or worse, like Mollee, neurological damage due to untreated health infection that takes months or years to kill their brain cells in their cerebrum and hypothalamus.

I’m not against breeding in total. But I’m against inhumane forceful, non-instinctual, inter-breeding that causes not just major behaviour and physiological problems, but also neurological and health problems. I respect good quality breeders (nowhere to be found locally) that breed humanely and instinctually. These breeders usually don’t earn much despite their high price, as 80% of the cost goes to vet bills and quality diet and regular health check-ups.

Breeders that don’t show you the family line of the puppy are usually force breed and/or inter-breed, very seldom delivering naturally, but most of the time by C-section. Results of the parents can present behaviours that are odd, or worse, like Mollee. If you think puppies are fine – they carry the genes.

Apart from thinking again and again about buying puppies, why not make it your priority to ask for their certs and the family line, history, behaviour of the parents, and at how many months was the puppy separated from the mother (safest is 2-3 months). Or… why not adopt.

I will continue to update Mollee’s progress…

** I will like to thank VFA for rescuing these dogs. They did a great job. They are not to be blame for any dog’s health condition, as they are just doing their best to help and provide a better life for all this dogs.

Ezra Koh

Is my dog aggrassive?

**This picture shows a dog in a highly fixated, aggressive behaviour. (Picture taken from Google)

I just came back from a case which I thought was an aggressive case, because the dog growled and bare his teeth at the family’s friend and snapped at their son on both legs. (I won’t be showing the dog’s photo or using any names to respect the family’s privacy)

To me, safety of humans comes first, especially when there are kids present.

When I arrived at the house, the door bell triggered a territorial behaviour, which yes, it’s instinctual, however, it was excessive. This dog was from my shelter, and he has one of the most gentle behaviour. One of our volunteer brought him home for about a week after his sterilization, and he stayed in my pet shop for a couple of days too. He totally ignored door bells and whatever bells that ring or any kind of distractions.

He went to his new home, and after about a month, I received a phone call saying that he attacked their family friend, chasing her around the car. And 2 days later, they called and told me that he has bitten their son on both legs. Being in this line of work, we must never judge anyone in anyway. My first instinct is that, they might have accidentally approve of his territorial behaviour without knowing it. And this happens to many dog owners. Like I said, no one is to blame. It’s not easy trying to understand fully about dog’s behaviour just by reading or watching CM or any other programs. All this comes with practice and experience with different types of dog behaviour.

When their daughter open the gate for me, immediately I noticed that no one stop his territorial behaviour before opening the gate for me. This is one common mistake owners make. Many will just open the gate, and many will just leash up the dog while the dog is still presenting the bad behaviour. Some will stop such behaviour in a frustrated manner by shouting and tugging on the leash excessively or even spank the butt of the dog or use a newspaper to cane the dog.

While speaking to the family, I noticed that he eventually gave-in and lay down quietly and calmly at his favorite spot. After seeing and understanding his reaction, I explained to the family about his actions, why he growl and chase and why he snapped at their son.

First; he was already learning to be territorial in the house, and when their family friend rang the bell, no one follow through with the discipline when he barks. Therefore, the barking became territorial, and without redirecting that territorial behaviour, it leads to guarding his territory which took him into the flight zone, that’s where he started chasing, trying to nip the legs to chase away an “uninvited” guest.

**This picture shows a dog moving into a flight zone… You can see a shock collar being used. Something which I don’t advocate. A shock collar can take a dog to a higher level of flight zone which can be dangerous for both the dog and handler. (Picture taken from Google)

After which, no one corrected his behaviour, which leads to a classical reinforcement of that unwanted behaviour.

Second; their son was petting him and asking him to sit, because he saw how easy it was when his parents and sister asked him to sit. He tried, and he tapped lightly on his back to sit. However, he faced away and moved off from their son, but his son continued and followed him asking him to sit, which he then went into a split second of silent before he turn and nipped their son on the leg.

**This picture shows a dog going into a split second of stillness before he nips or attacks. Eyes round, jaw closed and tense, head and shoulders tense. (Picture taken from Google)

Of course, with a nipped, anyone will be scared and run off. Their son fell, and he continued to move in nipping their son’s other leg. Yes, for people who understands dog behaviour will know that that’s a sign of protecting themselves and/or chasing away unwanted visitors out of being territorial or disliking the disrespect presented by another dog or the human, not aggressive, because he did not jump up and try to attack towards the boys jugular or face. But we must always remember, most people are not equip to understand the details of dog behaviour, and they will definitely lose confidence in the dog and start fearing for the safety of everyone, especially their children.

Some of you who have talked to me before, you know that my priority is always human first. Safety of humans, especially kids. And I always advocate greeting the humans first before the dog and humans always in or out of the door first. It’s not just about pack leadership, it’s about satisfying the dog’s instinctual nature.

After hearing what happen, I was worried for their son, at the same time, kept wondering what went wrong. I was glad to hear that they decided to discuss as a family before making any final decision, at the same time, I was ready to understand their decision as well. They decided to take responsibility over him with the understanding that, even if it’s some other dog, big or small, or very super tiny dog, they might make the same mistake again causing some other unwanted behaviour if they don’t make an effort to learn and find out what went wrong.

I explained to them about the actions of their dog, as mentioned above, and we did mock-up scenarios with them to help them understand that not every behaviour can be ignored.

Scenario 1: Their sons went out of the house, and without telling us when they will come back in and ring the door bell. As they walk closer to the gate, their dog went on slight alert. When they rang the door bell, their dog went into a territorial bark. Before he could continue barking excessively, I stopped him. The method I use is non-communicative, and no touching of the dog. I went towards him, snap my fingers and gave a firm, calm ‘hey’ sound and he immediately snapped out from the territorial behaviour, walk to his favorite spot and sat down. While their sons entered, he stood up, but again, I snapped my fingers and pointed to go back to his spot. He went back, and this time, he directed the territorial behaviour towards resting calmly – he lay down and rest.

Scenario 2: Their sons went out of the house, the same thing, but this time, I told them to make a lot of noise when they ring the bell. They made more nose then I expected. The door bell rang, their dog went into the territorial state again, but he heard my fingers snapped from a distance and went directly back to his spot and sat. I then walk towards the gate to invite the boys in. While I did that, he got up, and again, I snapped my fingers; he went back to his spot, and this time, he lay flat down and relax while I invite the boys in. Seeing that behaviour, I told the daughter to give him gentle affection to reinforce that behaviour.

Scenario 3: Because their son who got bitten presents fear towards their dog, I got him to walk next to me, away from their dog, this is to protect their son as I’ll be the first person he needs to get pass. I instruct their son to take a deep breath, relax, walk together with me and don’t bother about their dog- act as if there’s no dog around. He did exactly that very very well. While we walked pass, their dog stood up, immediately when he heard my fingers snapped, he lay down flat and relax.

Both mother and daughter tried the exercise a few times and succeeded. Next, I introduced a mesh muzzle which is comfortable for dogs because they can still drink water and eat small bites through it.

**This picture shows that the dog isn’t comfortable with the muzzle. It wasn’t introduce to him positively. (Picture taken from Google)

I introduce the muzzle because it’ll help build back the confidence with the whole family. And because I instruct them to have their boys walk together with their dog to enforce leadership and gain the dog’s respect as leader of the house too. When I mean leader of the house, I meant in respect, not in dominance.

How I introduce the muzzle to him:

1. Gave him small pieces of boiled chicken meat (which from hereforth be known as treat(s)).

2. Let him smell the muzzle, then treat. I did this for several times.

3. I used the muzzle to give him affection above his head and below his chin while feeding him the treat. This helps him associate muzzle with positiveness.

4. I put the treat in the muzzle and let him eat from eat several times.

5. While he eats the treat from the muzzle, I clip the muzzle on, feed him small pieces of treat through the muzzle, then unclip the muzzle and reward him with a treat again. Did this several times as well.

6. Finally, I left the muzzle on and fed him more small pieces of treat through the muzzle.

7. He lay down and rest with the muzzle without trying to take it off.

8. Patients!!

Muzzle is foreign to dogs, therefore, when introducing anything foreign and unnatural, we must enforce positiveness.

At the end of the session. Their dog became how he use to be. Relax, calm and gentle again. I instruct them to give lesser affection for now, so that they’ll be sure that they do not enforce the wrong behaviour by accident.

Usually the safest will be 3-4 months, after-which, when your dog’s behaviour becomes ‘happy-go-lucky’ behaviour, then it’s fine, but still enforce good structured discipline so that unwanted behaviour will not turn-up in the later part of your dog’s life.

Remember, prevention is better then cure. Enforce structured discipline like how your parents did for you, or how you do for your kid(s), or how schools enforce rules.

Give affection for the behaviour you most desire, ignore the behavior that is disrespectful, and correct the behaviour that can lead to something dangerous in the future.

Lastly, consult a professional if in doubt to prevent escalation of unwanted behaviour or injury.

Ezra Koh